Almost everyone knows that outdoor pollution can damage their health, but not many people realise that indoor air pollution can affect them as well.
The European Lung Foundation (ELF) is the public voice of the European Respiratory Society (ERS), which is a non-profit medical organisation with over 8,000 members in more than 100 countries. The ELF is dedicated to lung health throughout Europe and connects leading European medical experts together in order to raise awareness and provide patient information on respiratory disease.
The ELF has produced a number of ‘lung factsheets’ which have been reviewed by the ERS, all discussing different risk factors which may impact the lungs. Indoor air pollution is considered one of these risk factors due to a number of reasons.
Poor indoor air quality has been linked to several lung diseases such as asthma, allergies, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and lung cancer. Indoor air pollution can cause a healthy person to become ill with one of these diseases, or it can trigger and worsen the symptoms of those already diagnosed.
Indoor air pollution can be caused by a number of activities and can originate from a number of places. Poor ventilation, open fires, building materials and furniture, cleaning products and air pollution that comes inside from the outdoors, are just a few.
A dry throat or a cough are symptoms that can be felt after a short time (days or weeks) of exposure to indoor air pollution, whereas the long-term effects which can lead to for example lung cancer may not appear for several years. The ELF Lung Factsheet has a table which goes into further detail on exactly what source and pollutant causes what symptoms and how they affect the lungs as well as how to tackle them. See example below:
Full table available in the ELF Factsheet.
In their factsheet they have also provided 9 general recommendations to help you control indoor air pollution and lung disease:
- Do not allow smoking indoors.
- Ensure your home is well ventilated. Air your house for 5–10 minutes several times a day, especially during and after cooking, and after taking a shower.
- Maintain gas appliances.
- Where there are coal, wood or open fires, make sure that chimneys are cleaned and looked after. Burn only dry and untreated wood. Do not burn refuse or packaging as it can lead to the formation of toxic substances.
- Prevent water leaks and reduce moisture levels.
- If you live in a high radon area (houses built on granite, in areas such as Sweden and in the west of the UK), get advice on testing for radon.
- Use building materials and furniture with low emissions. Look for products and materials that carry the European “Ecolabel” (http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecolabel) or any other approved natural levels to prove that products are environmentally sound and low in pollutants and emissions.
- Install alarms for smoke and carbon monoxide.
- Take care when using chemicals in the household; as detergents, cleaning agents, air fresheners etc. release chemicals into the air. Always ventilate well after use.